I recently noticed that the English translation
to Der Schlieffenplan: Analysen und Dokumente, edited by Hans Ehlert, Michael Epkenhans, and Gerhard P. Groß, is now available from the University Press of Kentucky under the title The Schlieffen Plan: International Perspectives on the German Strategy for World War I. Interestingly, Terence Zuber, who sparked much of the debate on German war planning prior to the Great War, declined to allow his chapter from the German original to be included in this English translation. It wasn’t his best piece anyway, far more peevish than usual, and there is plenty of his work on the supposedly nonexistent Schlieffen Plan in English anyway. Be that as it may, if Zuber’s thesis about Schlieffen’s war planning has been conclusively disproven, the assumptions underlying his work have received less attention. That matters because his work on Schlieffen continues to be widely read and discussed, having made a big splash when it first came out. Moreover, he continues to write and publish books on German military history. Continue reading “Terence Zuber, Military History, and Culture”
As I try to write an article about Groener’s understanding of war, which led him to write about Schlieffen’s supposed “recipe for victory,”, I have to keep asking myself, so what? I don’t mean this is in a negative way. I haven’t tired of this topic. But I’m not always sure why it should matter to other people. Continue reading “Who Should Groener’s Schlieffen Plan Matter To?”
In a recent German History forum, Paul Lerner offers an interesting aside: “I used the medical Sonderweg as more or less a straw man in my 2003 book on German psychiatry, but I found that even as I refuted it, the need to explain the unique path of German medicine kept arising.”1 These words speak to me, because I used Groener’s biography to refute the rather untenable interpretation of a “feudalized” bourgeoisie in the Kaiserreich, even in the officer corps, but taking down that straw man hasn’t offered a satisfying answer about the meaning of Groener’s middle-class cultural orientations for our understanding of the Imperial German officer corps.
I also used Terence Zuber’s interpretation of Schlieffen’s doctrine and war planning as a foil against which to compare what Groener knew about war before 1914, as well as what he experienced in the opening acts of World War I. In this case, I was somewhat more successful in saying what actually happened and why, but far too much of the analysis and narrative was aimed at Zuber. That was still necessary in 2006, when I completed the thing, but now I am not so sure. At any rate, it can’t be the only point of an article about war planning and conceptions of war in the Great General Staff.
Although it is relatively easy to demolish straw men, I can’t stop there. I also need to offer more viable explanations in their place. I have a fair idea of how to do that in the case of Imperial German war-planning, but I’m less certain about the indirect relationship between class and professionalism that led me to challenge stereotypes of the Wilhelmine officer corps in the first place.
1 Cornelius Borck et al., “Forum: The ‘German Question’ in the History of Science and the ‘Science Question’ in German History,” German History 29, no. 4 (December 2011): 631.
Am I the only one who can get years behind on relevant readings? Silly me let teaching and editing get in the way of basic readings. But maybe I’m not the only one who gets behind. As much as I appreciate discussions about how digital scholarship could speed up the dissemination of research results, sometimes I’m quite glad these results come out slowly through journals, and that these journals are available online through the library for me to look at as time permits. I’m trying to get caught back up in a more systematic way, so that I can’t use earning money as an excuse for missing new scholarship on certain topics. Still, we are talking about dead people who aren’t going anywhere, right? And the pace of historical research is slow anyway. Besides, how often are the results of historical research advanced in real time? It’s not like cable news channels and NPR are standing in line to review our output. Even blogging, tweeting, facebooking scholars have their own research projects to do, so that they can’t pay attention to every new development of their colleagues at the moment it occurs.
The Schlieffen Plan debate has been dragging on for over a decade, so maybe I shouldn’t feel too bad that I have only now read Gerhard Gross’s excellent intervention (available in both German and English), in which he explains the whereabouts and wherefores of Schlieffen sources better than anyone I have seen (at least for those deeply
emersed immersed in the problem), not to mention addresses Zuber on his own chosen operational turf—albeit with politics as well as incredibly thorough archival work and careful, nuanced analysis. Now I need to make time to explore the differences between his Schlieffen and the one I see Zuber’s other historiographical opponents offering, especially regarding the question of “preventive war” in 1905. But that will have to wait. Right now, I’m more interested in Schlieffen’s image of war, what he imparted to the General Staff, and how. And I’m interested in matching Groener’s timeline against this, because what I’m really trying to get at is the evolution of Wilhelm Groener’s Schlieffen Plan, that is, how he understood and wrote about Schlieffen over the years.
By the way, how does “Wilhelm Groener’s Schlieffen Plan” sound for an article title? That’s what I’ve decided I’ll write first.
Uploading one’s dissertation to the Internet Archive is certainly not for everybody, because publishers will not want to publish something that one can get elsewhere for free. Nonetheless, I took this big step after initially just making it available on GoogleDocs and Dropbox, where I had the freedom to delete the file. After careful consideration, I have concluded that any articles or book I write will be substantially new pieces of scholarship, not just recycled, even when I draw heavily on my empirical findings and analysis.
(I have also uploaded my MA thesis. Two articles I wrote lean heavily on it, but they also integrate a substantial body of new scholarship and reach deeper conclusions, as they should have after the passing of so much time.)
So why not make my research available to the public? I have some unusual freedom in this regard, because I am not looking for a tenure-track teaching job, which means I do not have to fulfill those kinds of requirements. Instead I can continue to engage in scholarship next to my editing and part-time teaching. And I can submit that scholarship to the scrutiny of peer review, which I intend to do, but without worrying about finding time and resources to research and write a monograph.
Want to see my theses? Visit my Scholarship page, which will get you there. But keep in mind that there is a difference between a thesis and a book. A thesis is written for one’s professors, and a book for a broader audience.